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Relinquish Control

Thursday, 3 September, 2020 - 2:55 pm

As many of you know, I have served as a prison chaplain for over 20 years. It is not often that I hear from the folks that I visit after their release. This week I had the pleasure of communicating with a man that I have come to regard as a friend over the years that I have been visiting with him.

He was serving a lengthy sentence which was exacerbated by the fact that he refused to testify against others. He had been challenging his sentence for over 9 years. With each visit, I observed the great strides he was making as a Jew and a person. Unfortunately COVID-19 precluded me from visiting, and we had not seen each other since February. Appeal after appeal was denied. As each door to freedom closed, the chances seemed slimmer and slimmer that he would not have to serve out his full sentence of another 10 years. When the final appeal was denied, he felt a sense of being let down by G-d. He drew strength from the Jewish literature that he had, and determined to change his mind set and attitude toward Hashem. He sat down that evening and contemplated all the positive things that Hashem had given him in life. He then offered a sincere expression of thanksgiving to Hashem. He concluded his prayer by saying, “Hashem, I am putting this all into Your hands. Whatever You do is for my good.”

The next morning he got a message that his case manager wanted to see him. He walked in and she asked him if he had someone that could come pick him up. He was taken aback and asked her what she meant. She informed him that the judge discovered a brief that had been omitted from his case file when she was deciding the appeal. Now that she read it she decided to release him, and because of COVID, it would be effective immediately. They had never heard of such a thing and yet it was real. It was so unusual, that the halfway house to which he was released, insisted on keeping him for an extra few days in case they would discover that it was a mistake and he would need to go back to prison.

When we spoke, we mused over the amazing fact that as soon as he relinquished control to Hashem, there was immediate transformation of his situation from misery to joy, from imprisonment to freedom.

May each of us discover the spiritual strength to similarly relinquish control to Hashem, coupled with a sense of profound gratitude for the abundance with which He has already blessed us. May we all merit to see Hashem’s open and revealed blessings in our lives as He showers with a good and sweet new year.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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